Norco College presidential search narrows down to final three

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By Erik Galicia

Monica Green

Monica Green | Courtesy of RCCD

Norco College Interim President Monica Green emphasized her experience in program development as an 18 year employee of the Riverside Community College District during her forum on Feb. 20.

She described the Summer Advantage Program, which provides early orientation and one year of free tuition to first-time students, as a successful example of her management style.

“When we started that program in 2012, we recognized that we were squeezing our local high school students out and (that) we had a placement issue,” Green said. “So we worked very closely with our high school partners and developed this program.”

According to Green, the program paved the way for the college’s implementation of the Guided Pathways framework and the use of high school performance for placement.

Green has been championing Guided Pathways for quite some time. She claimed that fully realizing the process, which began in 2015, is one of the dreams she has for Norco College.

The interim president proposed increased dual enrollment, off-campus classes and temporary facilities to alleviate the college’s expected population boom. 

Over the past year, students and faculty have raised concerns over the college’s district funding. Green assured faculty that Norco College has built the necessary relationships to ensure equity. At the college level, she proposed the creation of a progress review that would manage funding by assessing and prioritizing needs.

Andy Aldasoro, the Norco College Classified Staff Union representative, asked Green how she would ensure that input from the “ground troops,” such as receptionists and groundskeepers, will be treated as importantly as input from professors and administrators.

“It’s ensuring that individuals are at the table,” Green said. “When is it not going to be convenient for our classified professionals to leave their areas because it’s a heavy time? Sometimes it’s balancing that with our faculty’s demands.”

According to Green, 40% of Norco College’s $75 million budget consists of “soft dollars,” which includes grants that fund the employment of classified professionals. She explained that the college must better prioritize funding to place some of these jobs on the general fund that makes up 60% of the budget, thus institutionalizing those jobs.

Green emphasized that the surrounding area is in need of an increase in “college-going rates.” According to Green, this requires making the community aware of Norco College.

“We’re lower on the list of being funded for new facilities,” Green said. “We have a service area that continues to grow. If we don’t bring on those resources then we’re not doing our due diligence.”

Green is in her second stint as interim president. She worked as dean and vice president of Student Services at Norco College from 2009 to 2018.

Kenneth P. Gonzalez

Kenneth P. Gonzalez | Courtesy of EPCC
By Erik Galicia

The only Inland Empire-raised finalist, Kenneth P. Gonzalez, relayed a message of empathy for students and staff at Norco College on Feb. 25.

Gonzalez is the vice president of student and enrollment services at El Paso Community College in Texas. His writings about the experiences of underrepresented students have been published across several academic journals.

“We’re here to serve students but we also need to make sure that our staff and faculty have access to a livable wage,” he said.

According to Gonzalez, the goal of Guided Pathways should be to put students on the path to a livable wage. He referenced his cousin in San Diego, who is studying to become a certified nurse assistant, a job he claims does not pay a living wage in that area.

Gonzalez explained that an institution must not only help such a student be a successful CNA, but also encourage that student to achieve the title of registered nurse. 

In regard to expanding faculty diversity as president, he expressed that educators of color have the opportunity to promote higher aspirations among students with similar backgrounds.

“So my little cousin, who’s 15 and thinks she only wants to be a CNA, sees a Latina nursing faculty member who’s telling her, ‘You need to get your nurse practitioner degree,’” Gonzalez said. “And she all of sudden thinks, ‘Wow, she looks like me and she came from a similar experience. I can do that too.’”

According to Gonzalez, only half of El Paso’s outgoing high school seniors go on to college. For the last three years, he has sought to increase that number to over 60%.

“Our students come to our college an average of seven times before they complete the enrollment process,” he said. “We sent 70 or so people to each high school. And at the end of that day, every senior who wants to come to (El Paso Community College) walked away with a schedule of classes in their hand.”

Gonzalez also argued that advanced planning does not always match reality. He reported that 25% of California community colleges are under a “hold harmless” agreement in the state’s Student Centered Funding Formula, meaning that funding will not be withheld for at least a few years even though graduation rates are lower than expected.

According to Gonzalez, achieving equitable funding in the multi-college district must involve alignment of plans with countless factors, such as governance processes, enrollment projections and pension obligations.

“The budget is kind of a moving target,” Gonzalez said. “To what extent are we making sure that our staff and faculty have a living wage and access to healthcare? That’s a big part of this too.”

Gonzalez said that production of strong data would allow him to be a strong advocate when making the case for Norco College’s needs.

Naydeen Gonzalez-De Jesus

Naydeen Gonzalez-De Jesus | Courtesy of
By Alison Arreguin

Naydeen Gonzalez-De Jesus, a public diplomacy officer at the U.S. Embassy in Argentina, highlighted her experience helping students of color on Feb. 27.

Prior to working in politics, Gonzalez-De Jesus, was the vice president of student affairs at Bergen Community College in New Jersey. 

She claimed that data indicated students of color were falling through the cracks at that college. 

“We were able to look at where we lacked as an institution,” Gonzalez-De Jesus said. “Through that experience we were able to increase retention and also the completion rate to the point that our institution was acknowledged as the number one school in the state of New Jersey.” 

According to Gonzalez-De Jesus, the administration at Bergen College bought flip flops at a dollar store for an experiment. Unable to choose what flip flops they would wear, they found that some fit and some did not. The experiment was meant to explain how the education system does not suit some students as well as others. 

“What is equity,” she asked.  “If you need to walk straight, you’re gonna have to have the right flip flops. Therefore I’m gonna have to give you the resources you need.”

Gonzalez-De Jesus said flexibility and availability of options are essential in balancing career and technical education and general education. No matter the path, colleges should provide the resources necessary for students to achieve their goals, according to Gonzalez-De Jesus.

Gonzalez-De Jesus argued that transparency and communication are required to attain the necessary funding in a multi-college district. She proposed sending out a newsletter every two weeks to inform people about funding priorities and requests.

Anisha Salhotra, a second year student, raised concern over the future of supplemental instruction and other tutorial services at Norco College.

“We are facing a lack of funding for supplemental instruction and tutoring on our campus,” Salhotra said. “Next semester we will not have any type of supplemental instruction at all.”

Gonzalez-De Jesus described partnerships as key to meeting the resource needs of Norco College. As a public diplomacy officer, she has partnered with Delta Airlines to aid students studying abroad in Argentina.

“They were able to go to Argentina and come back free of charge,” Gonzalez-De Jesus said. “I partnered with AT&T so that students coming to Argentina from the United States could have cell phones.”

Gonzalez-De Jesus proposed rearranging available space in order to accomodate Norco College’s expected population boom even when voters do not approve bond measures. 

“We have the space,” Gonzalez-De Jesus said. “Together we can make it happen.”

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